The Power of Authenticity

As we approach the finish line of the first part of the program (and the dreaded exams) the overall energy of the class is much more on the lower side than before… The exhaustion starts to pile up and what I see is not a change in the attitude, is really that people are too tired, overworked and worried to be able to “shine” through.

I believe it’s all part of the process…. But the reason I bring that up is because I’ve witnessed the power of authenticity and leadership with a speaker last week:

Imagine that tired, overworked class mentioned above. Add to that a full day of Accounting. Can you feel the energy?

Yes… we were pretty much dead when a 1994 IMD MBA Alumni bursted into the case discussion. No introductions, he just shows up and takes the lead of the discussion. He was actually the manager of the case we were studying and we started to discuss and question his decisions openly. Everyone was hypnotized and fully tuned in. He completely owned the room with his consistent confidence on not necessarily unanimous statements and decisions.

The Balanced ScoreCard case turned into a session on Leadership, Life and Values. It was so authentic and powerful that his lessons still echo in our coffee breaks and dungeons.

Here are some of the lessons that caught my attention:

SUCCESS – Be very good at something specific and only then start to broaden out. Have 1 or 2 mentors that you can rely on for candid unbiased guidance. Be happy with your family/loved ones.

TIME MANAGEMENT – Be present wherever you are and really connect with whoever is with you. Best way to be productive is to use your time fully and well.

LUCK – Is about attitude and how you deal with things in your life. Being open and positive will “attract” luck or transform situations.

DECISION MAKING – Assess what you can assess, but then make a decision and move forward. Don’t look back.

GIVING BACK – Always do something outside of yourself. Do things for other people in their best interests. “You learn, You earn and You return!”

And the advice for us during the MBA year?

  • Use this year to make a change
  • Take personal risk, don’t overprotect
  • Experiment with yourself/your facets
  • Refigure out who you want to be and what you want to do
  • Hone yourself to be the best person you can be

Thanks Leif for bringing him and giving us that energizing session!

Now back to the studies… and good luck to all of us on the exams!


Finally Spring is here

Since we celebrated the arrival of Spring in the Eastern-European traditional manner last Friday, the weather has been wonderful here in Lausanne. It was helpful to get us through the past week, and through this coming one hopefully, the last  before the exams prep.

On the first day of spring according to Swiss standards, I though I would share my picture from this nice celebration.

Spring celebration.jpg


Impression rage

This week was notable by the number of speakers in our program: IMD alumni of 90’s, 2000’s and 2015, as well as J&J and McKinsey&Co guests. The whole gallery of characters, personalities, stories, individual and professional challenges, power of knowledge and will, flexibility and firmness and what not. Career services occupy more space in our agenda.

We worked with dilemmas of brand power, in- and outbound marketing, accounting and conflict solving; we “sold” lab equipment and made cash flow reports.

Our committees perform so well, that I struggle prioritizing: healthcare, consulting, technology, energy, social and women in leadership clusters organized activities this week. Sports committee visualized the whole spectrum of assets that are luckily represent in our class.

After three months of waiting a small branch of my granny’s houseplant finally took rootes in a glass of water on my window-sill.

Till soon,


Reflections on my MBA admission journey

Blog posts are getting a bit irregular as some of you might have noticed- a sign of things to come. As mentioned in my previous post, the honeymoon period is over and now is the time to deliver. Deliver on projects, integrative, start-ups and shortly on exams too. We are fully embedded in IMD now and there has been no better reminder of this fact than all the queries I and my classmates are receiving from potential candidates on our MBA experience.

We are indeed, finally living those “plans” that once seemed eternally futuristic. All the apprehensions, hopes, concerns and expectations we had from an MBA program are unfolding in front of our eyes one after the other and therefore it is only natural that those who aspire to be on this campus next year look to us for counsel. So let me use this post to share some advise I received from my IMD seniors when I was doing my application.

1) Get clarity on why you want to do an MBA – it took me a while to polarize this question. I could always come up with alternative narratives for my career that included and excluded an MBA. There are many different models to think about one’s future career. We can think of our career as a “business venture” in which we make investments and hope to get back financial returns. We can think of it as a continuous learning journey where at each next step we seek new knowledge or as my senior suggested we can think of it as an athelete’s pursuit – where we will do all that it will take to make us perform at our full potential. None of these models are right or wrong but it is worth noting that you have to find the metaphor for your career which will be distinct from others and see how an MBA fits into it.

2) Know your MBA college – It is critical that once you have made your mind to do an MBA you must put in a lot of effort to fully understand which college works best for you. This is important not only because you have to spend 1 or 2 years of your life in that place but also because for the rest of your life that college remains a part of you – what do you want that part to stand for?  My senior advised me that an MBA admission is not a one way selection process. It is in fact a test for compatibility. Use every opportunity to know the school, just as the school is trying to use every opportunity to know you (oh yes!  those casual chats at the end of the assessment day were not so casual after all – be in your element always). Talk to current students, spend a lot of time on the website, talk to alumni and make your own decision. Find your inspiration to join that school.

3) Stop second guessing the admission officer’s mind – One question I seem to be getting quite often these days is “Kunal, I have a poor GPA but my GMAT is high, do you think the admission officer will overlook my grades?” or something similar. The honest answer to all such questions is – I dont know. And in fact I can bet you no one knows what is going through the admission officer’s mind and it shouldnt be your concern at all, simply because you cannot influence it. You can only spend your valuable energy worrying about it. What you can influence though is your application. You can put up for consideration your best self as reflected in the application and that is where you must focus your energy.

4) Take pride in yourself – This last piece of advise I received from my senior was quite critical. Often when we read sample essays etc. we tend to walk away with a feeling that we must put up a story that is completely ironed, spotless and smells of prodigious talent. We tend to find ways to hide our failures and amplify our successes. But in fact we must take pride in our failures and successes alike. We must spend time thinking what have we learnt from our experiences and showcase the learning journey. Taking pride in our journey does not mean being arrogant rather having a silent confidence that we are better off for “all” our experiences.

I hope some of this is useful and in passing on this advise, I have done justice to the message of my senior. It is worthwhile to highlight though that these were the things I personally found valuable in my journey and not all of this will be applicable to every future candidate. But the point is to know what really matters and focus your energies on that. Continue your quest that will hopefully guide you to your decisions. And lastly, dont forget to find your inspiration.



The Integrative Exercise: When push comes to shove

I didn’t know they were called “Integrative Exercises”, but I had heard before coming to IMD about the infamous 48-hour-straight assignment that  encompassed much more work than humanly possible, blood, sweat and tears. Or so I thought!

A friend from the 2015 class about a month ago said to me that I would love the integrative exercise. I thought to myself: “Either he is crazy, or he doesn’t know me at all.” Guess what? He was right! I did love it!!!

By saying I loved it, I don’t mean that it was easy, simple or that I’d do it again on my free time 🙂 but it is definitely something I’ll cherish from my IMD memories.

Our group tried to enter the exercise with full power and a clean slate. We had feedback sessions prior to the start and tried to learn about what worked better for us as a group as we advanced through the regular class assignments. We agreed that it would be tough and we would get stressed and committed to help each other cool off if things got ugly.

I won’t say it never got ugly, but considering the situation and lack of sleep (2,5 hours each night, plus a 2hour break mid exercise) I think we did a great job at keeping together as a group.

One of the high points was right after the second night dinner… we felt the energy going low and still had a LOT of work to do. We decided to put a power song to cheer us up and get the energy going. Then one of my group mates had the idea of going around spreading the energy to the other groups and we did a chair tour:


Not everybody loved it though hahah but it took us just 10 minutes and when we were back, the group was energized and ready to start another long shift! (I’d definitely recommend it to future classes.)

Nicolas had the cool idea of shooting us the entire time! Here’s a peek at our room – or should I say our home – during the exercise:


This experience taught me so much! I learned a lot through the board’s feedback and pitfalls that were absolutely real life applicable. Learned about myself and how far I can push my body. Learned how my actions can trigger unintentional consequences in the group, and the other way around. Learned about the incredible power of collaboration and trust.

And my final lesson came later with the grade:

During the exercise I really felt we were doing great work. We were very much committed to it and pushing to get the best out of every part. The first board meeting seemed to have gone well and we worked super hard on the changes for the second board. However, I felt from the board’s final feedback that they had not liked it very much. I had spent 47:30 hours happy and excited and after the final presentation I was super down…

Guess what? I was wrong yet again. We got a very high grade! And I learned I should trust myself and my group yet some more 🙂

Thank you so much, guys. You rock!

The team: Roraj Pradhananga, Philipp DeAngelis, Vladimir Petrenko, Luca Gianaschi, Nicolas Martinez and me 🙂

Au revoir,

Sílvia Simões

Newborns and birthdays, how to keep the integrative exercise interesting

While we are anxious to know what the long nights of the integrative exercise would look like, one of us started practicing a few days early with the birth of his twins…


… and others made sure we took our minds off the exercise for a few minutes on Friday night by organizing a short but fun birthday celebration.

20160303 - Birthdays.jpg

The integrative exercise is always full of surprises!

Congrats Vlad, happy birthday again Sophie and Dustin.


Happy survivors or what does it take to be a team

We completed the famous integrative exercise! A complex case and 6 people to provide a solution to a management board in 2 days. Thirty-eight hours of team work, endless coffee and several packs of snacks, red eyes, head aches and some, but very little, broken hearts and… we are the champions!

Wednesday evening. Excitement is growing, we have read blog posts from previous participants and many of us are stressed and try to build up scenarios to determine survival rules and overcome a feeling of chaos. The next-days events showed that a very small part of those predictions turned out to happen. Conclusion: scenario planning is helpful in managing anxiety, but one shouldn’t too much rely on impression of others – individual experiences are truly unique.

Thursday – here it comes! Who is the first to understand the case? You have a solution? Five others challenge. Time flies. No solution yet. I am tired. A strange noise in the dungeons corridor as if an asphalt roller is approaching. We are looking at each other – what’s up? A neighbor group chills out riding rolling chairs. Come on, tomorrow morning we deliver our presentation! And we need to sleep. We seem to have found our solution. “I don’t trust your numbers”. It’s early morning and other four bent over backwards to reconcile debaters.

Friday after the presentation. We are on the right track – fine-tune here, adjust there and we are done. Let’s finish early! Discussion. Oh, we are tired and slower than yesterday. Let’s split and divide the tasks. Several a-ha moments. After dinner we still have white spots in our story line. Group skids. Group dissolves. Group reassembles.

Friday, 9 p.m. A cake party to celebrate B-days! What a unique celebration spirit! I love our class! Back to my team. Someone challenges the basis. Oh, no! Two short rhythmic stamps, one long clap – “we will, we will rock you”. Group reassembles again.

Let’s make slides! Close the window, it’s cold. Open the window, it’s stuffy here. We need to help you! Go on, we are almost there!

Saturday morning, team dry run. You need to see those handsome smart guys! I know we are well prepared and it’s gonna be fine. But I am nervous. “Calm down, take my banana!”. “No, can’t eat now”.

Saturday after the presentation. Yes, we did it! Why didn’t we consider the other side of the coin? We leveraged our internal expertise, we were great. However, we had some blind spots due to our professional inclinations. At some point during the preparation stage I though I wasn’t contributing, but now I see that I actually did a lot. How much contribution is too much? Would I contribute if I were 100% passive? Definitely, yes, but in a negative way. Did we have fun? Incredibly, yes! I am blessed to be in this team.

From left to right Xu, Jonas, Gianpaolo, James, me and Edison.From left to right Xu, Jonas, Gianpaolo, James, me and Edison.

Till soon,



Flora  commented on  Sunday, March 06, 2016  8:10 PM 

strong team!!!